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The Long Song by Andrea Levy

The Long Song

by Andrea Levy

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934659,334 (3.63)1 / 285
  1. 10
    The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (vancouverdeb)
    vancouverdeb: Similar themes: black slaves, a young woman who works within the "White Master's" Plantation house.Slavery,Freedom from slavery; both wonderfully written. Divided loyalities, a fiesty female slave.
  2. 10
    Someone Knows My Name: A Novel by Lawrence Hill (legxleg, JenMDB)
    legxleg: Both are stories of women who are born slaves and live through long periods of history.

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Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
A former slave on a Jamaican sugar plantation writes the story of a former slave on a Jamaican sugar plantation. While the story is autobiographical, it's also clear that the writer is an unreliable narrator. She confesses to exaggeration at several points in her story. This is an exceptional book as far as technique goes, but I found it difficult to connect with the characters on an emotional level except for the field slave, Kitty, in her grief at the forced separation from her child. A strong undercurrent of anger runs throughout the book, and perhaps that accounts for my inability to connect with the characters. I felt angry on their behalf, but I didn't experience the empathy that occurs when a book's characters inhabit my heart and mind. ( )
1 vote cbl_tn | Sep 26, 2015 |
Chronicling the life of a slave named July in Jamaica, readers learn the plight of her family, including her mother who died in the Rebellion. The story then follows July's life as she continues her life of servitude and then past that period. The book is not for the faint of heart as some of the treatments of slaves are brutal and an execution scene is described in pretty graphic detail. The book flows with the rhythm of much Caribbean literature. It's a style where the narrator talks to the reader. I love these asides, and I especially one such aside which was the shortest chapter in the book. I'll leave that one for other readers to enjoy when they read this volume. It is easy to see why this book was on the shortlist for the Booker Prize at the time of its publication. ( )
  thornton37814 | Sep 20, 2015 |
Miss July was born a slave on a Jamaican sugar plantation. When she was a child, the English mistress took a liking to her and brought her from the fields into the house, forcibly separating July from her mother and insisting on calling her "Marguerite." July came of age serving the mistress, and made it through some very tumultuous times, including the Baptist Rebellion and later, the abolition of slavery. Now an old woman, July is living with her son and his family and sets to writing her story. That sentence alone tells you her life was an unusual one, and there are many details and plot twists the reader can look forward to in this novel.

I loved this book, and I loved July and her strong personality. Her survival was mostly due to pure cunning, mixed with a bit of luck. The people in her life -- both slaves and whites -- were well drawn, and Andrea Levy didn't shy away from the violent realities of slave treatment, the consequences of rebellion, and the tension once slaves were free but still expected to work on plantations.

This novel was shortlisted for the 2010 Booker Prize and is a worthy contender for that honor. ( )
2 vote lauralkeet | Sep 6, 2015 |
I'm not sure that this ever really took flight for me. I kept expecting it to seer the pages, and it kept feeling like it was pulling its punches. Maybe that was the point, but it felt like something was missing. Told by July, it is a life story. You first discover July is being encouraged to write this by her son, who she lives with in a seemingly comfortable state. This is her life, told in retrospect, from its beginnings in slavery to her becoming a house servant, then becoming free and what that means to her and her fellow slaves. . The interplay between past and present and the interjections of the son at times felt clumsy. July tries several times to end her memoir, but her son wants it told, I'm not sure this reflects well on either of them. He seems to want her to get to the part where he looks good, she seems happy to leave certain parts of the tale untold. Either way, it didn't seem to hang together very well. ( )
  Helenliz | Sep 25, 2014 |
The best book I've read so far this year. Andrea Levy tells the story of the last years of Jamaican slavery and the first years of manumission with a piercing humor, sometimes gentle and humane and sometimes appropriately less so.

The story is framed by a successful Jamaican printer who encourages his mother, July, to write down the story of her life, largely because she is distracting him by constantly trying to tell it to him. Mostly she tells the story in the third person but periodically the novel returns to the first person, present tense -- the time she is writing it many years later. It begins with July's conception in the rape of her mother by the overseer. And the continuous narrative ends with an event even more cold hearted and brutal.

In between, it tells the story of July, a sly, witty slave who becomes a house slave and, after manumission, continues on as a house servant.

It is hard for me to capture just how compelling, well written, beautifully imagined, funny, and tragic the book is. So you should read it for yourself. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
Daarvoor is ’Het lange lied’ een te menselijk verhaal, over vrouwen en kinderen die weten te overleven in tegenspoed, die leven en liefhebben, die geboren worden en sterven onder de heldere zon, omringd door de weelde van de tropen. Thomas, zoon van de verteller en trots op (maar niet verblind door) zijn Engelse opvoeding, drukt het zo uit: „De enige troost voor het geleden onrecht is de volledige waarheid”. Dat wil zeggen: een onsentimenteel portret van een gebroken samenleving, waarin de fouten van degenen die eerst tot slavernij en daarna tot armoede veroordeeld waren net zo eerlijk en met net zoveel sympathie worden beschreven als die van hun onderdrukkers. De slavenbezitters zijn vooral gênant als persoonlijkheid, niet als vertegenwoordigers van een bepaald volk of natie.
added by PGCM | editTrouw, Amal Chatterjee (May 8, 2010)
As is inevitable in any book about slavery, this novel is confronting. And at times it is almost unbearable to witness the attitudes of the plantation owners.
In The Long Song, Andrea Levy explores her Jamaican heritage more completely than ever before. This sensational novel – her first since the Orange Prize-winning Small Island...Slavery is a grim subject indeed, but the wonder of Levy’s writing is that she can confront such things and somehow derive deeply life-affirming entertainment from them. July emerges as a defiant, charismatic, almost invincible woman who gives a unique voice to the voiceless, and for that she commands affection and admiration. Levy’s aim, she says, was to write a book that instilled pride in anyone with slave ancestors and The Long Song, though “its load may prove to be unsettling”, is surely that book.

Andrea Levy's insightful and inspired fifth novel, "The Long Song," reminds us that she is one of the best historical novelists of her generation....Levy's previous novel, "Small Island," is rightly regarded as a masterpiece, and with "The Long Song" she has returned to the level of storytelling that earned her the Orange Prize in 2004. Her heroine narrates the beginning of the end of slavery in Jamaica, coming to a climax with the 1831 Baptist War, when enslaved men and women fought their enslavers for 10 days. It's clear that Levy has done her research, but this work never intrudes upon the narrative, which travels at a jaunty pace. Levy's sly humor swims just under the surface of the most treacherous waters
Slavery is a subject that has inspired some magnificent fiction (think of Toni Morrison's Beloved or Valerie Martin's Property), but I had some misgivings: might it not, in this case, make for over-serious writing, especially for a novelist as comically inclined as Levy? But she dares to write about her subject in an entertaining way without ever trivialising it and The Long Song reads with the sort of ebullient effortlessness that can only be won by hard work.....The heart of the novel is July's description of the ménage à trois between Caroline, herself and Caroline's newly acquired English abolitionist husband, Robert. You despise, pity and almost – but never quite – sympathise with Caroline. On first arriving in Jamaica, she appears a twit – yet with a lively curiosity

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The book you are now holding within your hand was born of a craving.
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Lezer, ik moet u iets opbiechten. Leg uw oor dicht tegen deze bladzij. Nog iets dichterbij. Want ik voel me genoodzaakt om vrijuit en oprecht te spreken over het hoofdstuk dat u zojuist hebt gelezen. Luistert u, lezer? dan zal ik u het volgende onthullen: over het algemeen gedroegen blanke mannen op dit eiland in de Cariben zich niet zo.
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from Amazon com : A distinctive narrative voice and a beguiling plot distinguish Levy's fifth novel (after Orange Prize–winning Small Island). A British writer of Jamaican descent, Levy draws upon history to recall the island's slave rebellion of 1832. The unreliable narrator pretends to be telling the story of a woman called July, born as the result of a rape of a field slave, but it soon becomes obvious that the narrator is July herself. Taken as a house slave when she's eight years old, July is later seduced by the pretentiously moralistic English overseer after he marries the plantation's mistress; his clergyman father has assured him that a married man might do as he pleases. Related in July's lilting patois, the narrative encompasses scenes of shocking brutality and mass carnage, but also humor, sometimes verging on farce. Levy's satiric eye registers the venomous racism of the white characters and is equally candid in relating the degrees of social snobbery around skin color among the blacks themselves, July included. Slavery destroys the humanity of everyone is Levy's subtext, while the cliffhanger ending suggests (one hopes) a sequel.
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The child of a field slave on the Amity sugar plantation in Jamaica, July lives with her mother until a recently transplanted English widow decides to move her into the great house and rename her. She remains bound to the plantation despite her "freedom." The arrival of a young English overseer dramatically changes life in the great house.… (more)

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